Activating the best of you!

Dear Joan,

I’ve spent the last 15 years working in a management position  for a large corporation.

My position came to an end six months ago when the company moved, and I opted not to leave the area. I anticipated a short job search period, but it has turned into a much longer one. So I expanded my search to include the non-profit arena, and am now actively interviewing for a position in a local non-profit that I feel does excellent work for our community. What are the key differences between the for profit and non profit sector? I know salaries would tend to be lower, but what else?

Thank you,



Dear Jesse,

Good question and one that a couple of my clients have encountered as well. Sometimes people go out of their way to focus on being of help in the non profit sector and they even earn degrees specifically in working for non-profits. But interestingly, sometimes non-profits look for candidates with a corporate background to inject some best practices, and style that can balance out the typical ways of non-profits.

Having worked for both  for profit and non profit organizations and with clients who’ve recently gone from one side to the other, I would say that there are three main differences:

  1. SALARY – In general, given the same responsibilities, salaries in a non-profit tend to run  15-20 percent lower. Let’s look to the mission to find out why. For profit companies are focused on maximizing profits, and they tend to reward employees whose jobs contribute to the bottom line. They are willing to pay for competitive candidates. Non-profits have missions that are focused on helping people or being of service to a community. They are not typically well funded or if they are, they use the money to support their purpose. For instance, the Red Cross. It takes in a lot of money in donations to help people in disasters around the world. It also uses a lot of volunteer energies, as do most non profits. People who are attracted to non-profits are typically willing to forego top pay to align their talents with the mission of the organization and get some alternative ‘non monetary compensation in knowing they are making a societal contribution.
2. CULTURE –  For profit corporations tend to have more aggressive work styles and  culture than non profits. For profit companies attracts people who want to work hard, keep their eye on the bottom line (of profits) and see their careers moving upward in responsibility and pay. They are typically most motivated by financial gain, thus there is a strong sense of competition in the for profit culture. The kind of people attracted to the non profit sector typically lead more with a strong commitment to meaning, and highly value societal contribution. They tend to feel more comfortable with a more collaborative culture rather than a competitive one.   Non profits are known to be  friendlier, and they encourage team building and a strong loyalty to mission over dollars. They also tend to work fewer hours and respect the work/life balance more than the corporate world tends to do.
3. PACE – The pace in non profits tends to be  slower. There is not the quarter to quarter pressure to meet financial goals. The decision making tends to be more collaborative in non profits  and there is typically less focus on working hard and fast to quickly add to the bottom line.
Again, non profits tend to attract people who are naturally more thoughtful and slower to action; whereas corporate ‘type’ tends to be naturally faster and evaluate a decisions based on short term financial impact.
There are exceptions to the differences that I mentioned here, but in general you tend to find a different kind of working environment, compensation and pace in the for profit vs. non profit. sector.
All the best to you, Jesse. Many people can work well in either environment and there are benefits to both. You also need to consider what your personal priorities are at various stages of your career. Sometimes financial considerations are key, sometimes a mission oriented non profit feels right, and you want to have a slower pace with a friendlier, less competitive environment. And sometimes you just want to find a job in your field, whether it is in the profit or non profit sector!
Onward in your career success,
Coach Joan

Dear Coach Joan,

I have been working as a technical recruiter for high tech companies for the last two years. I had been doing well, and actually enjoyed the work very much, but unfortunately the small  recruiting consultancy I’ve been working for has closed.  I need to find new employment and was recommended to find a professional organization where I can network, and hopefully find a new job. In researching online, I found a fairly local high tech recruiting professional association. There is a cost for joining, and I’m wondering how to make the  most out of investing in a membership. Thank you in advance for your suggestions.



Dear Terry,

I’m glad you found a field that you enjoy; one that has good compensation potential. It sounds like you were working for a contract recruiting firm, and you now may want to consider looking into opportunities to work in-house as a recruiter at a high tech company. The advantage of being an in-house recruiter is that you will be on a steady salary, instead of having a variable income on a pay-for-placement basis.

And I applaud you in looking to join a professional association where you will have opportunities to meet face to face with people in your industry. Yes, there are many online employment listing opportunities, but there is nothing like the face to face meeting where you can connect, make a good impression, and  perhaps unearth a new position, perhaps a job not yet listed. Companies are often looking for talented people and often to find them in places like professional associations which attract motivated, hardworking people who are looking to advance.

That said, how do you make the most of a professional association membership?

It starts with phone calls. I always suggest to clients that we look at the leadership of the organization. Typically, the people who play leadership roles in these groups are volunteers. They are looking to network and further their profession and careers.  They often enjoy helping others in their field! I  would first study the organization’s  web site and if they have any interesting meetings coming up. Then, I would call (or email if phone number is not listed) a couple of the leaders and introduce yourself with my background and my desire to join the group. Offer to send my  resume and Linkedin information. The most important part is to ask them how you can best volunteer and offer your services at the next event! Professional associations are always looking for volunteers. And the groups often offer you a complimentary visit to a first meeting or presentation to see if you feel the group is a good fit. If possible, put off paying the membership until after the first meeting to see if it really is a good fit for you.

When you connect with leaders of the group, ask if they will be going to the event you found. See if you can look to meet up with them there or even at a coffee or lunch before the meeting.  It feels much better to go to a first meeting when you already know one or two people. You won’t feel like an outsider, especially if they ask you to volunteer for things like helping with registration or handing out speakers’ materials, or another kind of easy and visible task. These tasks, coupled with a name tag that says your name and that you are a volunteer, make you a useful part of the group and a person who has earned the right to introduce yourself around.

The other kind of preparation that I suggest you consider is reading up in your industry. Look for blogs and the thought leaders in your field of technical recruiting. See what issues and popular topics are trending. Come with things to talk about. Come prepared with questions and points of view

I always tell my clients that ‘Readiness + Opportunity = Success’

In the case of going to professional association meetings that means: dressing professionally, communicating with enthusiasm, preparing questions and opinions and being ready to share your employment situation, capabilities,  and your readiness for new opportunities.

Yes, Terry, professional associations can be a great way to meet people and find new opportunities in your field. They also can be an excellent place for career  training and development as well as new employment.

Onward to your career  success. Let’s bring the best of you to work!


Coach Joan